Manny Pacquiao's political rival, Walden Bello, has petitioned for Pac-Man's fight against Timothy Bradley to be stopped, arguing the extensive media exposure surrounding the bout will give him an unfair advantage in the upcoming senatorial elections in the Philippines.
Should the fight be postponed until after the election?
That's according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), which reported Bello filed the petition on Monday, with the April 9 fight due to take place just one month prior to the elections.
Per the AP, Bello believes the coverage of the fight would "violate a law giving candidates equal access to media publicity."
Per Leslie Ann Aquino of the Manila Bulletin, the seven-page petition was made to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) by Pacquiao's fellow candidate, with both in the running for a seat in the election on May 9. According to Aquino, the petition read:
The pay-per-view arrangement of the boxing bout where the April 9, 2016 fight will be covered live; the media coverage during the entire day of the fight, will provide Mr. Pacquiao with enormous media projection which may, could and should be considered as a violation of the equal time and exposure limits provided for under the Fair Elections Act.
Further, Bello's petition alleges Pacquiao's scheduling of the fight in the run-up to the election was a deliberate move by the 37-year-old to generate publicity for his campaign:
What must likewise be given appropriate weight and attention is the fact that Mr.Pacquiao agreed to schedule a fight one month before the May Elections. It is highly probable that he was aware that such fight will bring about continuing media publicity thereby adding to his already ‘incidental’ far-reaching public exposure, giving him an undisputed advantage over all other candidates for the senatorial, especially since the fight will be held one week, or on the Sunday, prior to the elections.
Pacquiao's glittering career—which has seen him win 10 world titles—has made him one of boxing's biggest icons, and his vow that his trilogy fight with Bradley will be his last outing in the ring is sure to increase the profile of the bout.
According to Tetch Torres-Tupas of Inquirer.net, "election law expert" Romulo Macalintal has argued the claims made in the petition are "premature," and with the fight taking place in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, it falls outside of Filipino jurisdiction.
He said: "To date, no one could tell how many minutes could be treated as political ads because the fight and promotion have not even started yet."
Even if there is any offence defined under Philippine laws, [disqualification] could not be imposed against Pacquiao because the fight will be held in Las Vegas City and our courts, under the doctrine of territoriality, have no jurisdiction over offences committed by a person outside the territory of the Philippines, except if it involves national security of the country. For sure, the Pacquiao-Bradley fight is not covered by such exception.
Pacquiao is in training for the decisive fight with Bradley, as he revealed on Twitter:
Training on the speed ball pic.twitter.com/XxznORivYi— Manny Pacquiao (@mannypacquiao) February 19, 2016
The American won their first encounter in 2012 by split decision to claim Pacquiao's WBO Welterweight title, which Pacquiao unanimously regained in their rematch two years later.
No such titles will be up for grabs when the two meet for a third and final time in April, though the Filipino will naturally be eager to finish his career on a high and add to his 57-6-2 record.
It could be argued that Pacquiao's recent media exposure has actually damaged his profile after he hit the headlines with his controversial views on gay couples, which has seen sportswear company Nike withdraw their sponsorship of him despite his offer of an apology on social media:
I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt. I still stand on my belief that I'm against same sex marriage because of what the Bible says, but I'm not condemning LGBT. I love you all with the love of the Lord. God Bless you all and I'm praying for you.
However, it is clear that he will have a consistent platform as we move closer to April when the promotion for the showdown starts in earnest.